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Shadow IT in Manufacturing

23 July, 2019
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Today’s IT departments have a full workload, handling the entire architecture, hardware, software and networks of computers in a company. From defending against cybercriminals to providing everyday tech support for a wide variety of connected devices—and many more responsibilities—IT departments don’t have much bandwidth left to deal with problems that can be prevented. When it comes to the manufacturing industry, Shadow IT can introduce issues in the Smart Factory, but also provide benefits as well. The key is to understand Shadow IT and recognize how to manage it. 

What is Shadow IT?

Most companies’ IT departments set the standards as to which software, hardware, applications and services employees are permitted to use—and they are typically highly regulated, monitored and secured. When employees use unapproved IT resources, without the knowledge of the company’s IT department, this is considered Shadow IT. For example, cloud-computing applications like DropBox, off-the-shelf software and unregulated hardware—such as computers, smartphones, tablets and other forms of bring-your-own-device (BYOD)—can all be considered Shadow IT, when used without consent from the IT business unit.

Reasons for Using Shadow IT in Manufacturing

In most cases, the primary reason Smart Factory employees turn to Shadow IT boils down to the desire to convert the complex and the inefficient into simple and streamlined—an overall drive to maximize their time and productivity. Outdated and complicated IT infrastructure and processes can hinder employee performance and overall work accomplishments, prompting them to search for alternative methods to get the job done faster and easier.

In one study from the Association for Information Systems, workers in a manufacturing facility relied on BYOD as their primary form of Shadow IT, utilizing their personal smartphones to aid in knowledge management among other daily tasks. The reasoning behind their decision to use Shadow IT stemmed from inadequate and poor equipment, lack of modern IT, as well as complex, time-consuming official work procedures—each of which contributed to preventing them from efficiently accomplishing their jobs.

The study also suggests that reasons for using Shadow IT in manufacturing may be attributed to a disconnect between units; while the manufacturing environment has undergone drastic changes in recent years, with increased digitization and automation, the actual plant floor may not necessarily reflect this same level of tech transformation—prompting workers to fill this void with modern technology that is already familiar and in use in other aspects of their lives. In the case of BYOD on the plant floor, the workers interviewed in the study explained that using Shadow IT provided them with a more effective avenue to achieve work tasks such as:

  • Accessing corporate data
  • Improving knowledge management
  • Providing an easy and effective method of communication among coworkers
  • Avoiding mistakes
  • Streamlining work processes
  • Facilitating better overall productivity

Assessing Risks and Opportunities for Growth

With advancements in technology continuing to proliferate, companies are seeing a huge increase in IT investments funded by lines of business (LoBs), outside of the IT department. An example might be the marketing business unit deciding to purchase Salesforce or another cloud-computing platform, independent of previously established IT standards. Without a doubt, Shadow IT is becoming more widespread, and IDC has forecasted that by the end of this year, IT spending funded by LoBs will surpass IT spending funded by actual IT departments. This can be a daunting thought for unprepared IT departments, due to increased opportunities for risks related to safety, data security, vulnerabilities, inefficiencies, compliance and financial issues, among others. However, it’s possible for Shadow IT to also pose as a benefit for companies.

Shadow IT can be a good thing, contributing to increased productivity, improved performance and reduced costs for the company; it can also be a prime opportunity to leverage the voice of the employees, opening up a new line of communication to identify the applications they want to use, addressing why they may help improve their job efficiency, and allowing IT management to make careful, informed decisions about whether to adopt these technologies.

The best way to prevent Shadow IT may be to accept it, through detailed monitoring of software and cloud services, as well as providing secure, IT-controlled access to information and resources workers need—which will, in turn, reduce the risk of external deployment of Shadow IT.

Dynamic Computer Corporation provides the services you need to keep your company’s data safe. Adapt securely to Shadow IT with Dynamic’s Smart Factory solutions, designed to streamline your company’s connected digital world with compliance, consistency and control. Contact us today to get started. Call 866-399-1084 or email us at info@dccit.com.

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